Public Accountability Required for Fair Debate
Hajime YAMADA (Deputy Executive Director, GLOCOM, and Professor, Toyo University)
In my view, the government has so far failed to respond properly to the various questions that have been raised by the general public regarding Juki Net, and has simply repeated its same explanations about the security, benefits and costs of the system. This is a major problem, because the Juki Net issue can never be resolved without the government's acknowledgment and exercise of its accountability based on hard facts.
Let me explain how I have come to such a conclusion. The other day I attended a debate conference regarding Juki Net among freshmen in the Department of Economics at Toyo University. There were three matches in the debate, and in two out of the three matches those groups that opposed Juki Net won. I noticed something interesting by observing the process in the debate. In this kind of debate, students tend to construct their argument by relying on the kind of information that they can collect from books, magazines or the Internet rather than their own study or research.
Those who support Juki Net can find very little information other than a few official announcements by the government to justify their position. As a result, students in favor of Juki Net repeatedly referred to the government's claim that the system could save 4.3 billion yen through the correct identification of public pension recipients.
In contrast, those who oppose Juki Net have plenty of information and analysis to depend on. They can make use of various information ranging from the current situation in the U.S. or Korea to the average frequency of moving, the average number of issuances of resident registries, the cost of issuance of Juki cards, etc. For example, they could easily develop an argument against Juki Net by saying that "the benefit of Juki Net in simplifying the official procedure of moving will be quite limited because the average Japanese changes residence only once every 20 years."
This was the main reason why the opposition won in that debate. It has been a long time since the Juki Net issue was raised and recognized as important by the public. However, the government has never responded squarely to the various questions posed by those who oppose Juki Net, but instead has continued to ignore such questions and concerns as if it were a foregone conclusion decided upon by law.
Public administration means to administer public duties on behalf of citizens and is by no means situated above citizens. It is not expected at all to push certain policies by ignoring public questions. These days we often hear the word "accountability," and the government must be accountable in administering its policies. Currently the Juki Net issue is deadlocked, precisely because the government lacks accountability regarding Juki Net.
(The original Japanese article was posted at the GLOCOM Juki Net Research Forum: http://www.juki-net.jp/opinion/010/)